The website of Derek Webb, former member of CCM band Caedmon's Call, was taken down due to the controversy surrounding his upcoming album – or at least that's what it may seem like to most passerbys.
"Make no mistake, our trouble with the label over content is very real, and not as simple as one word," Webb wrote in an e-mail to fans before his site, derekwebb.com, was purged of all content minus his last two e-mail.
"This is turning into a bigger deal than we expected," he added.
Earlier this month, on May 12, Webb reported that he was "in a situation that has gotten a little out of control" and that it had to do with his new project, Stockholm Syndrome, which he recently finished and turned into his record label.
"They (the label)'ve been very supportive over the years, but this time we didn't get the response we expected," Webb stated.
Though Webb has been working with INO Records since he left Caedmon's Call in 2003 to pursue a solo career, it is unclear whether INO Records is the label Webb is currently working with on his new project. On his MySpace page, Webb lists his record label as Bejerot Records, a company some believe to be fictitious – named after Nils Berejot, a Swedish psychiatrist and criminologist who coined the phrase "Stockholm Syndrome" to describe a psychological phenomenon where hostages show signs of loyalty to the hostage-taker.
"It seems I've finally found the line beyond which my label cannot support me, and apparently I've crossed it," Webb reported.
While Webb did not state specifically what the alleged issue is, he said that the majority of the controversy surrounds a song that he said he considers to be among the most important songs on the record.
In the past, Webb has irked some conservatives with his occasional use of profanities – in both speech and, at least one time, in song.
Some observers suspect that if Webb is in hot water, it may be over a song on his new album that is rumored to include the "S-word" and addresses the way in which Christians have treated the homosexual community.
But many are starting to wonder whether the controversy is a fabricated one – intended as a publicity stunt.
One week after sending out his "very real trouble" e-mail, Webb sent out another e-mail in which he scattered underscore marks throughout the text, breaking up what appears to be random words.
A closer look revealed that the letters after each mark together spelled out "paradiseisaparkinglot" – the .com domain of a website that appears to be part of an elaborate treasure hunt in which pieces of a song have been scattered and hidden as "artifacts" across the nation.
"Looks like Derek Webb has broken down one of the songs from his new album into pieces, and he's placed the pieces of the song on flash drives that he's hiding around Nashville (and maybe the whole country???)," observed Bryan Allain, a friend of Webb's.
"Some ... will be annoyed by the coded emails, hidden websites, and the rest of it. I'm sure he anticipated that," he added in his personal blog last week. "Personally, I think it's fun and I'll wait until I have all the information about what's going on before I pass judgment on him for the label stuff."
So whether or not Webb is really in hot water with his record label is not certain.
On Jan. 14, however, Webb wrote on Twitter that he "spent a few hours conspiring with the record company [that] morning."
"[T]hings are going to get interesting soon," he added, either predicting this month's "controversy" or, more likely, the "artifact" hunt.
Stockholm Syndrome was originally expected to hit stores this month but Webb had told his fans that the current "controversy" made it unclear when the album will come out and in what form it will come out.
"We're backed into a corner. But we have applied all of our creative resources to this – working furiously to create something that we believe not only subverts any legal issues but should also be a pretty wild ride," he reported.
Until things have smoothed over, Webb's official website will remain purged of its content and his Twitter account will remain inactive "to be on the safe side."
"I'm going to personally go offline while we sort this out," he wrote last Tuesday.
Webb has, however, created a new Twitter account (@ssyndrome) to "leak information," including when new instructions for "artifact" seekers are posted and when each set of five artifacts are found.
The site paradiseisaparkinglot.com, meanwhile, posts the instructions as well as the one-second audio files contained on each of the "artifacts" along with the name of the first person who finds each set of artifacts.
In total, there are expected to be 20 sets of artifacts – two of which have already been found in Nashville on May 19 and Greenville, S.C., on May 21.
The latest set of instructions was made available Tuesday, May 26. As of Tuesday afternoon, two of the five artifacts in Waco, Texas, have been found.